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Patricia Van Arnum was executive editor of Pharmaceutical Technology.
Former President Jimmy Carter and Pfizer mark milestone for long-standing partnership to combat trachoma in the developing world.
Former US President Jimmy Carter joined Pfizer at the company's headquarters on Nov. 5, 2013 to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), an independent, not-for-profit program dedicated to the elimination of blinding trachoma as a public health concern. Trachoma is an infectious eye disease that is a leading cause of blindness in the developing world. Pfizer has provided hundreds of millions of doses of the antibiotic Zithromax (azithromycin) to help the global campaign wipe out blinding trachoma by the year 2020.
Pfizer, through the ITI, has donated more than 340 million doses of the antibiotic to date to prevent and treat trachoma in support of the World Health Organization(WHO)-led Global Alliance for the Elimination of Trachoma by the year 2020. ITI has managed the distribution of the antibiotic to 28 countries in Africa and Asia since 1998. Approximately 320 million people worldwide are at risk for contracting trachoma, with about 7 million suffering from the advanced, blinding stage of the disease.
“The Pfizer donation of Zithromax was momentous in trachoma control, and The Carter Center was pleased to go to scale in trachoma-endemic countries to get the medicine into the villages and demonstrate the world could end blinding trachoma,” President Carter said during a celebration with partners, nongovernmental organizations, and Pfizer employees at the company’s headquarters in Manhattan.“The progress and success of the trachoma campaign is something every Pfizer colleague can be proud of. Through the 15-year partnership, millions of people worldwide will be spared the injustice, indignity, and pain of their eyelashes scratching and scarring their eyes,” added President Carter.
On Nov. 10, 2013, the 100 millionth Carter Center-assisted dose of Zithromax was scheduled to be distributed in the Amhara Region, Ethiopia, during a celebration with the Ethiopian government, Pfizer, ITI, the Lions Clubs International Foundation, Lions of Ethiopia, and other partners. The Amhara Region is thought to be the most trachoma-endemic area in the world, and the partners are working to demonstrate that blinding trachoma can be eliminated from a highly endemic country.
The Carter Center, together with the Ministry of Health and other partners in Ethiopia, has helped demonstrate that community-directed infrastructures for preventing trachoma can mobilize millions of people to accept treatment and adopt behavior changes to improve their own lives, even in remote areas where there is limited access to basic medical care, water, and sanitation. The international trachoma campaign uses the SAFE strategy, approved by the WHO, to prevent and treat trachoma. SAFE stands for: Surgery to prevent blindness; Antibiotics to treat active infections; Facial cleanliness; and Environmental improvements, such as latrines, to reduce the breeding grounds of flies that help spread the disease. Using these interventions, Ghana, Morocco, Oman, Vietnam, Iran, and The Gambia have all achieved success against this infection. Mali, Niger, and Sudan also are on track to make significant inroads in their fight against blinding trachoma by 2015.
“We are honored to have President Carter join Pfizer to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the ITI program and gratified about the progress that has been made toward eliminating blinding trachoma as a public health concern,” said Pfizer Chairman and CEO Ian Read. “Pfizer joins President Carter and others in envisioning a world where blinding trachoma has been eliminated. I speak for the entire Pfizer community in reiterating our desire, along with partners like The Carter Center and ITI, to helping end the suffering by 2020."